A church is not the usual type of venue within which I would find myself for a gig and, to be honest, I can't recall the last time I actually set foot in a church. However, the New Life in Lincoln is a church like no other that I have seen, and has more the feeling of a concert venue than sacred building, perhaps akin to somewhere like The Paradiso in Amsterdam (itself a converted church), albeit of smaller proportions. And the reason for my presence here this evening is to witness legendary musician Rick Wakeman in action for one of his solo shows. The night is comprised of part music with Wakeman showcasing his virtuoso skills on a grand piano, sometimes to backing tracks, other times unaccompanied, and part narrative as musical pieces are interposed with the man wandering up and down the stage as he recounts stories from his long and colourful history. It's a good balance of music and comedy, similar to what one might expect from a Bill Bailey performance, although the humour is most sincere, rooted as it is in truth. In fact, Wakeman is a natural in that his comic timing is paced perfectly during his lengthy monolgues, and tales such as when he pushed Salvador Dali from a stage in Paris whilst performing with The Strawbs and being entirely unaware who he was 'assaulting', and his alcohol-fuelled appearance on 'The Old Grey Whistle Test' engender huge laughter from the audience. Music-wise, Wakeman lives up to his legendary credentials with a mightily impressive display of musicianship, as pieces from his past are aired to rapturous applause. Tracks by Yes, The Strawbs, and a selection of solo and other numbers are performed with skilful precision, with all the action displayed on two large screens mounted at each side of the stage - multi-camera feeds are intercut to show long shots as well as capturing his fingers on ivory in close-up. And geez does he move those fingers fast, never missing a note. 'Birdman of Alcatraz' is preceded by an amusing story involving one Bill Oddie in Switzerland, and Wakeman demands audience participation during the piece as those present are requested to make bird noises en masse when prompted. Comedy and music are combined during his medley of nursery rhymes played in the style of famous composers including renditions of 'Ba Ba Black Sheep', 'Hickory Dickory Dock' and 'Three Blind Mice' infused with the compositional idioms of Mozart, Debussy, and Dawson - "Dawson...that's Les" Wakeman informs the audience! 'Gone But Not Forgotten' brings a few minutes of seriousness and poignancy in what is a rather beautiful piano piece, a track adopted by The 'Not Forgotten' Association, and we're told it's "good to close your eyes to and remember people". Overall, Wakeman's solo show is a fantastically entertaining experience and, tonight, the man proves himself a true showman. Should you have the opportunity to witness him in action yourself, then I certainly recommend you do so.
Wednesday 28th July 2010
New Life in Lincoln, UK
Review & Photography by Mark Holmes
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